Home Away From Home: How to Sew a Folding Sun Hat

Posted by on Aug 13, 2014 in Sewing |


When you take a vacation in the sun, one item you must remember to pack is a hat to protect yourself from the sun’s harsh rays. But have you ever tried to take a woven hat with you on vacation? It’s basically impossible to pack without crushing, so you end up wearing it en route on the plane, or carrying it along with your luggage.

how to sew a travel sun hat

But a fabric sun hat is the best of both worlds: You can fold and pack it along with your clothes, but when unfolded, it will provide shade and keep you from getting burnt. The steps below look long and complicated, but trust me, this couldn’t be easier! Just follow along with each step of this sewing tutorial, and you’ll have your own version in no time.

How to make an fabulous & foldable fabric sun hat

gather your tools

Step 1: Gather your tools.

  • The Rain and Sun Hat Pattern by Lorenna Buck Designs
  • Medium to heavy weight fabric for the top of the hat and both rims
  • Medium to light weight fabric for the cap lining
  • Lightweight woven fusible interfacing
  • Scissors
  • Thread (note that there will be topstitching on the main fabric)
  • Pencil
  • Water soluble marking tool
  • Pins
  • Clear ruler

measure test square

Step 2: Print the pattern.

If you’ve never used a PDF pattern before, this might be new to you. The first thing you always need to do is print the page that has a test square on it. Print the page at 100% with no scaling in a PDF reader software, like Adobe Acrobat. Once that page is printed and the square is the correct size. Continue by printing the remaining pages.

trim pattern pieces

Step 3: Assemble the pattern.

PDF patterns need to be assembled as they are full-sized patterns broken up to fit on regular sized sheets of paper. I like to trim the bottom and right edges of each page, as pictured above.

assemble pattern pieces

Once you have trimmed to the rectangle on the overlapping sides of the pattern, line up the outer rectangle lines and the markings of the pattern. Take along the seams to form one large pattern piece.

cut the pattern

Step 4: Cut the pattern.

Once all the pages are assembled, use your scissors meant for paper and cut around the shape. For this project, there is one piece for the rims and one piece for the cap.

pin the pattern to fabric

Step 5: Cut the fabric.

For the outer portion of the hat, I suggest using a medium to heavy weight canvas or similar fabric. The fabric I used is 100% cotton canvas weight. Cut two pieces for the rim by placing it on the fold, then cut six triangle-shaped pieces for the cap. There isn’t a grainline on the cap piece, so be sure to place it on grain. I cut mine with the length of grain running vertically with the piece, so the cross grain stretch went around the cap.

pin the lining to fabric

Repeat by cutting six pieces for the interior lining of the cap. This should be quilt-weight cotton or a similar fabric. Again, be sure to place it on grain when pinning to the fabric.

sew two panels together

Step 6: Sew the cap.

Place two of the outer cap pieces together, right sides facing. Pin along one of the curved edges and sew on the project’s seam allowance of 1/2″. I suggest sewing towards the points on the cap pieces, as it’s much harder to line up on the correct seam allowance with the curve and point.

press the panels

After sewing the seam, press the seam allowance to the right. Because this is now a curved 3-D piece, this will not lay flat, so use a pressing ham under the curve to press it properly.

top stitch the seam

In the construction of the hat, I mostly follow the instructions for the pattern, but there are moments that I preferred to do things differently. The topstitching is one of those spots. In the pattern all the cap top stitching is done at the end of assembling the entire cap, but that is significantly more difficult that doing them after sewing. So as pictured above, I topstitched after each curved cap seam.

sew third panel

Place a third cap piece on the previously sewn cap pieces, right sides together and pin along the curved edge. As you did with the last pair, sew towards the top point along the 1/2″ seam allowance.

seam intersection of panels

When the three pieces meet at the top, the stitching will land right in the intersection of the pieces. Press the seam allowance to the right as with the previous seam.

top stitch third panel

Topstitch along the seam just sewn. I stitched my cap’s seams at a 1/8″ seam allowance. Repeat these steps to form the other half of the cap.

sew top curve of hat

Place the two cap sections right sides together and pin along the top curve. Stitch along the curve at the project’s 1/2″ seam allowance.

press the top seam

Press the seam allowance to one side with your pressing ham underneath to fill the empty space.

top stitch the top sam

Insert the top seam just sewn back into the machine to top stitch. This can be tricky as there are bulky seam intersections to go over, so take your time. Again, I stitched my top stitching at 1/8″.

sew lining panels

Step 7: Sew the cap lining.

Place two of the lining pieces right sides together and pin along one of the curved sides. Sew the seam on the 1/2″ seam allowance and stitch toward the top point.

press the lining seam

Press the seam allowance by placing your pressing ham under the curved seam.

top stitch lining seam

Top stitch the lining by sewing 1/8″ from the seam just sewn, just as you did for the outer portion of the cap. Repeat these steps to create the second half of the cap lining.

sew top curve of lining

Place the two lining pieces right sides together and pin along the top curve. Stitch at 1/2″. Press the seam allowance to one side and top stitch as you did on the outer cap.

press interfacing to rim

Step 8: Sew the rims.

Use the rim pattern piece and cut one rim piece from lightweight woven fusible interfacing. Fuse the interfacing to one of the rim pieces. This piece of the rim will be on the underside of the hat, so if you are using a different fabric for the two rim pieces, keep that in mind.

stitch rim ends together

Fold the rim in half and pin the short edges right sides together. Stitch along the seam at 1/2″.

press the seam open

Press the seam you just sewed open with an iron. I used my pressing ham under the seam as the rim will not be flat after sewing the last step. Note, when working with curved seams, be careful not to stretch them out of place, as all the elements need to line up as the hat gets assembled.

pin the rim and cap together

Place the outer cap and the non-interfaced rim right sides together and align the inner curve of the rim with the curve of the cap. Pin along the circle. Be sure to place the rim’s seam at a place on the cap that would be the back of the hat.

sew the inner circle

Sew around this circle being extra careful not to create any pinches in the fabric on the underside. Stitch at 1/2″ seam allowance.

press the seam flat

Place the hat on the pressing ham and press the seam just sewn. The seam allowance should be facing up into the cap portion of the hat. Pressing this area helps open up the seam so when the rim is sewn the foot can get into the area around the cap with ease.

sew the lining to the rim

Pin the lining cap to the interfaced rim around the circle seam as you did in the last step and sew together at the 1/2″ seam allowance. Mark a 2″ section of this seam to remain unsewn that will be used later for turning the hat right side out.

press the seam flat

Press the seam around the hat that was just sewn as you did with the other cap and rim. For the section not sewn, simply fold the seam allowance under and press as if it was sewn.

pin hat pieces together

Step 9: Assemble the hat.

Place the two hat groupings together, right sides facing. Pin around the outer perimeter of the rims. The caps should fit inside each other.

sew the outer rim edges together

Sew around the rim, stitching the two rims together at the 1/2″ seam allowance.

trim the rim seam allowance

Trim the seam allowance from the previous step in half.

pull the hat right side out

Pull the entire hat out through the hole left in the hat when sewing the lining to the rim. Be careful not to be too aggressive, as we don’t want to tear anything.

press the rim flat

Press the rim flat on both sides of the hat to prepare it for top stitching.

press the inner curve

If necessary, press the cap and rim seam again to keep the rim out of the way for topstitching.

top stitch the outer edge of rim

The pattern calls for the rim only to be topstitched at the outer most edge and at the seam where the cap and the rim meet, but I love a hat with rows and rows of top stitching, so I did mine that way. Plus the topstitching helps strengthen the rim to help keep the hat from being too floppy.

top stitch the whole rim

If desired, continue stitching around the rim, using the foot as the guide from row to row. Be sure to check your bobbin to make sure you won’t run out of thread along the way!

hand stitch the hole closed

Hand stitch the hole left in the hat closed with a needle and thread and give the rim a final press.

finished sun hat

All that’s left to do it fold it up in your bag with your swimsuit and sunblock!

 What color & pattern of fabric are you going to use for your sun hat?